The import figure reported Wednesday was a marked acceleration over the 5 per cent reported for the combined January-February period, suggesting Chinese manufacturers and consumers are buying more. But in a sign that global demand remains relatively subdued, exports rose 10 per cent.
The export figure was down sharply from the 23.6 per cent for the two-month period. That could add to challenges for Beijing as it tries to sustain the rebound from China's deepest downturn since the 2008 global crisis and avoid job losses in export industries that employ millions of workers.
Exports rose to $182.2 billion while imports were $183.1 billion, according to the General Administration of Customs. The country's politically sensitive global trade surplus narrowed to $900 million.
Economic growth rose to 7.9 per cent in the three months ending in December, up from the previous quarter's 7.4 per cent. Analysts say the recovery is being propped up by government spending and bank lending, while consumer spending is growing slowly.
Analysts have warned China's recovery could be vulnerable if exports or government-driven investment weaken.